Jewish New Orleans evacuees at Camp Henry S. Jacobs in Utica, Mississippi
With the decision still forthcoming from city and state officials as to how and when they would begin to let residents of Orleans and St. Bernard Parishes return, I made the decision to leave the wet and muddy environs of Henry S. Jacobs Camp and venture northward to Memphis. The steady, driving rain for most of the drive through Mississippi made driving conditions difficult. My attention was affixed on the opposite side of Interstate 55 and the astounding number of vehicles headed southward to New Orleans and lower Mississippi. It was notable for one major reason: there were caravans of hundreds of tree cutting and energy service support vehicles traveling ten or 15 trucks at a time. The state border was shut down at Louisiana by state troopers. Unless one was an emergency responder (doctor, policeman, fireman, etc.), he or she could not gain access to the state. Vehicles were being turned away in droves. And so I headed north...towards Graceland and Beale Street. Memphis is home to the largest Orthodox Jewish population in the South and many of the religious observant New Orleans community headed there for support during this evacuation period. Kosher food is plentiful here and an eiruv (enclosure) has been constructed in town that allows Jewish residents within it to carry items on Shabbat, for example. Many Jewish families stayed in Memphis during the weeks they were away following Hurricane Katrina. It wasn't a difficult decision for many of them to make again. After making the drive in intermittent rain still left from the area of disturbed weather that once was Hurricane Gustav, I arrived in the Home of the Blues. Last night with only a few hours to rest, I was invited to the home of Dr. Seth Kaufman, a pain management doctor here. Unbenownst to me, many of the evacuated New Orleans Jewish community had also been invited there. Among the guests were Joel and Natalie Brown of Kosher Cajun Delicatessen and Grocery. They announced they were leaving to make their way back to their store and their Metairie home in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. They said they had only lost power to their refrigerated food items for eight hours, which meant everything was still good. Other guests included their sister-in-law Jennifer Fertel and Dr. Ed and Channah Lang. The Brown's daughter Ruth was celebrating her birthday and several local Jewish girls and boys wearing kippahs (skullcaps) and contemporary clothing were relegated to the kitchen area while the adults dined on kosher beef ribs, vegetarian chili, baked beans with meatless sausage, grilled chicken, grilled eggplant, cole slaw, kosher hot dogs and hamburgers. No one went away hungry, because there was also an ample supply of fresh deserts baked or prepared by Mrs. Kaufman, a former registered nurse. She managed to spring on me something I had never seen before: a yellow watermelon. It was quite refreshing and I had a small portion of some passion fruit sorbet to finish my meal. I was so tired that writing became a chore. That's the reason that this post is going to be made on Wednesday, albeit very early on Wednesday.
Jewish New Orleans evacuees including Kosher Cajun's Joel Brown, center, enjoying Memphis hospitality